There isn't much neutral ground when it comes to bed fishing for bass. You either love it or you hate it. Those who hold a negative view grow intimidated when a major spawn takes place because they know they're at a disadvantage. But when a bed fishing fanatic knows bass are nesting, he gets as giddy as an English setter with a snoot full of quail scent. He's ready to go on point at any second.
Whichever group you belong to, the hard reality is that skilled bed fishermen have a distinct edge when the spawn commences. It is possible to do well in a tournament by ignoring bedding bass, but the big money usually ends up in the pockets of anglers who have the ability to catch these fish.
Californian Ish Monroe, and Texans Kelly Jordon and Bud Pruitt all possess the required patience, persistence and confidence needed to catch bedding bass. They've also refined their bed fishing tactics and developed nuances that help them excel when the spawn is on.
Pick the right bass
Kelly Jordon rarely casts to the first bedding bass he sees. He starts off by zipping around a potential spawning area with his electric motor on high speed. His extensive bed fishing experience has trained his eyes to see bass other anglers miss. He claims that his Oakley Monster Dog Sunglasses with amber lenses also improve his bass vision.
Kelly Jordon always carries an extending aluminum push pole in a rod locker. When he fishes for bedding bass, the pole helps him sneak up on bass that are leery of electric motor noise. After he pushes into casting position, Jordon jambs the end of the pole into the lake bottom and uses it to hold his boat in place. This lets him make cast after cast without using his electric motor, which could spook the bass.
"Some people have better vision than others, but you can learn to see bass by practicing bed fishing," Jordon says.
When Jordon sees a bass bolt off its bed upon his approach, he knows it will be tough to catch, especially if it doesn't soon return. A bass that moves slowly off a bed and immediately returns is very catchable. And, any bass that stays locked on its bed as Jordon whirrs past is an easy mark.
Even when he sees a receptive bass, Jordon never casts to the fish upon the initial sighting. "I don't want the bass to associate my bait with my boat," he says. "That makes them tougher to catch."
Instead, Jordon notes exactly where the bed is located and sneaks back within easy casting range 10 minutes or more later. He starts off pitching blind to the bed to avoid putting the bass off with his boat. A locked-on bass usually responds with an aggressive bite on the first cast.
If blind casting doesn't get results within five minutes, Jordon moves just close enough to barely see the bass. This lets him know if the fish is still there and how it is responding to his bait. He generally pitches past the bass, pulls his bait into the bed, and twitches the bait as hard as he can without pulling the lure ahead.
One of his favorite bedding baits is Lake Fork's 3 1/2-inch Baby Fork Craw in a natural color, such as watermelon red or green pumpkin. He matches the bait with the heaviest tackle he can get away with, up to a 6/0 wide gap hook, 55-pound SpiderWire Stealth braided line and a 1/2-ounce bullet sinker. His basic bed fishing outfit is a 7-foot medium heavy Fenwick Techna AV baitcasting rod, 20- or 25-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon, and a high speed Ambassadeur Torno Reel.
"A fast reel is important, because you want to get the bait back as soon as possible after you pull it off the bed," Jordon says. "When you're trying to aggravate a bite, you don't want to give the bass any time to relax."
Jordon usually has several rods rigged with different bait so he can throw the bass a change-up without missing a beat. Included in his arsenal is a medium action spinning outfit with 8-pound fluorocarbon line and a 1/8-ounce bullet sinker, which is often paired with a tube.
"I'll use a light bait and a spinning rod when bass demand a natural presentation," Jordon says. "I also make the first couple of casts with it when I'm blind fishing a bed. It usually gets a quick bite."
Braided line advantage
"Sometimes spawning bass are very line shy and very bait shy and you have to go with finesse tackle," Kelly Jordon says. "Sometimes, though, they just don't care. This sounds crazy, but every now and then I have them react better to braided line than to the identical bait fished with fluorocarbon. It seems like that obvious line makes them even more upset."
When he must resort to aggravating a bass into biting, Jordon breaks out his heavy tackle with nothing lighter than a 1/4-ounce bullet sinker. The weight must be heavy enough to hold the bait in the bed when Jordon twitches it with his rod tip to pester bass. He recommends that you shake the bait as hard as possible while trying to keep it in one spot. Heavier weights allow for more aggressive shaking, which is why a 1/2-ounce sinker is sometimes the most productive.
"Every bedding bass is different, so you can't fish exactly the same way every time," Jordon says. "You've got to be on your toes. It's a fun, intense, dynamic way to fish. It requires concentration, intuition and a whole lot of other elements. That's what makes it so exciting."
Bud Pruitt has little use for tiny baits when he fishes for bedding bass. His bed fishing motto is: "Big bait, big hook, big line, big bass." He claims that a big bait, such as an 8-inch worm, a big Zoom Brush Hog, or a 5-inch Madman Craw Tube, rouses faster responses from bass.
He prefers black, grape and other dark colors, which he believes are more appealing to spawning fish. Yes, bright colors are more visible and they help anglers keep track of their baits. However, Pruitt feels confident fishing a bed even when he can't see his lure. One reason for this is the 3/8- or 1/2-ounce bullet sinker he matches to his bait.
"I can put a heavier bait exactly where I want it, and it stays in the bed a lot better than something light," Pruitt says. "Especially the way I work a bait. I pop it a lot harder than most guys do."
Keeping the bait in the bed as long as possible is crucial, believes Pruitt. He has found that a bass changes its attitude whenever a bait is pulled out of its bed, and that the change isn't always to the angler's advantage.
A 7-foot, Castaway Heavy Magnum rod and 50-pound SpiderWire Stealth braid handle Pruitt's bed fishing duties. To prevent his bait from sliding down the hook with all that shakin' going on, Pruitt steals the wire clip from an HP Hook and fixes it on a 4/0 or 5/0 wide gap hook.
"That clip is awesome," Pruitt says. "I never have to mess with my bait, and I'm convinced that the clip rotates the hook up in the bass' mouth when I set the hook. I get them right through the nose almost every time."
When Pruitt works on a bass that runs from the bait, he turns the tables on the fish. He leaves his bait in the bed and waits until the bass circles back. As the bass approaches, he hops the bait out of the bed to make it appear as though it is fleeing. This emboldens the bass and makes it more aggressive. As Pruitt repeats this trick, the bass' circles grow shorter and it eventually begins to approach the bait in the bed.
"Sometimes they'll get right up on the bait, but they won't eat it," Pruitt says. "That's when I make them bite. If you can get the bait within 2 inches of their nose and suddenly pop it up, they'll respond with a reaction bite."
Bass on shallow beds in clear water lakes are the easiest to see. This is why they either get picked off quickly or grow so jittery from constant hassling that they become almost uncatchable. Ish Monroe, who honed his bed fishing skills in clear, Western waters, continues to catch spawning bass in this situation by looking for overlooked beds 6 to 8 feet deep. Since these beds are harder to spot, Monroe helps his cause by wearing amber Cocoon sunglasses. In ultraclear water under bright sunlight, he opts for gray lenses. Monroe also shields his eyes with a full-brim hat or a hood to prevent unwanted light hindering his vision. In a pinch, he'll block the light with his hands."Deep beds show up better after about 10:30 because the sun has more penetration when it's higher," Monroe says. "But even then, you can't see deep beds as clearly as shallow beds. A little movement or a
shadow may be the only indication that a bass is on the bed." Though you may not be able to see and work a deep bed as efficiently as a shallow bed, the bass tend to be less spooky and more eager to bite. They haven't been harriedby other anglers, and they feel safer with more water over their heads. They also are less affected by cold fronts.
Whenever Bud Pruitt searches for bedding bass, he keeps a marker buoy handy on the bow of his boat. Should he see a bedding bass, he drops the buoy on the backside of the bed. Then he continues on and returns several minutes later. The buoy lets him stay back and blind cast to the bed without spooking the bass.
"That's the best way to fish a bed," Pruitt says. "If the bass doesn't know you're around, it's likely to bite immediately."
Pruitt also points out that a buoy is an indispensable aid when bass spawn on offshore flats where you can't take landmarks along the bank. A buoy is especially helpful in choppy water, where you may see a bedding bass only for an instant as you pass directly over it. You could quickly lose track of the bass and its bed without a buoy as a reference point.
"The water may be clear, but there's really no need to use finesse stuff," Monroe says. "I get after them with a flippin' stick, 20-pound fluorocarbon line, and a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight. I've been doing really well on bedding bass lately with the Sweet Beaver flippin' bait from Reaction Innovations."
Monroe repeatedly drags, soaks and shakes the Beaver through the bed, just as he does when he works a bed in shallow water. He often positions his boat so he can barely see the bed, but not the bass. By keeping his distance, Monroe hopes to keep the bass in its natural "protect" mode.
"Another advantage with deep spawners is that they usually aren't as particular as shallow spawners," Monroe says. "You don't have to hit some tiny key spot on the bed to aggravate them, or shake the bait at precisely the right moment like you have to do with shallow spawners. If you're getting your bait on the bed, chances are good you'll catch the bass."